How to get out of your own way…

“One of the greatest tragedies you can experience is to come to the end of your life and realize that… your failure was due in large part to your inability to get out of your own way.”

Mark Goulston

Do you know your weaknesses? Are you aware of the behaviors and tendencies that you exhibit that prevent you from being as productive, impactful or fulfilled as God created you to be?

If you are aware do you have coping mechanisms and an active plan to address these shortfalls? Do you revisit that plan regularly and hold yourself accountable to its execution?

Do you have a list of friends or confidants that you have shared both the list of weaknesses and your action plan with? Have you given them permission to hold you accountable? Have you asked them to be candid and direct and not sugar coat feedback when they see something that you need to know about?

If you answered “no” to any of these questions then you are at high risk of being the person who can’t get out of their own way. Don’t settle for being as good as your worst weakness will permit you to be. Change the narrative and elevate yourself.

Learn from the past, focus on the future…

“Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.”

Pope John XXIII

Why do we let “the past,” which is only a memory in our minds, get in the way of what is possible in the future? Unfortunately it is human nature to get wrapped up in what didn’t work or what went wrong and we lose focus on what is yet to come. The key is to focus on learning from the failures with the intent to use that knowledge to get better.

If you value every experience as an opportunity to grow and improve then you will be able to learn from the past but focus on the future.

Paranoid is good…

“Success breeds complacency.  Complacency breeds failure.  Only the paranoid survive.”

Andy Grove

The minute you think you have arrived, that you think you can lay back and relax because you have accomplished your goal, that is the minute you start to slide towards complacency and irrelevance. Complacency scares me more than almost anything else. Complacency means that you don’t care deeply and passionately and that goes against every fiber of my being. But how do you make sure that you pause long enough to recognize success?

I know that I struggle to slow down long enough to celebrate success. When something is achieved I immediately begin thinking of the next thing, the next goal. How do you ensure that you pause long enough when achieving some level of success but not become comfortable there? What is the appropriate about of time to celebrate success before starting towards the next journey?

I follow the principle “celebrate a win for a day, then get back to work.” Numerous people have talked and written about this and it has worked for me. What works for you?

Failure preventative…

“Failure is not a single, cataclysmic event. You don’t fail overnight. Instead, failure is a few errors in judgement, repeated every day.”

Jim Rohn

I really like how Jim frames failure as a “error in judgement, repeated every day.” When you think of failure through that filter what does it look like for you? What are the daily “errors in judgement” that are repeated? Is it not tackling the tough conversation and letting something fester? Does it revolve around allowing negative conversations to persist even when you know that you should address them? Is it a case of doing the urgent but not important things that need to be done? There are so many possible ways this can manifest.

Think about failure through the lens of the daily opportunities you have to perform at a higher level. Does settling for “good enough” today become an “error in judgement” in hindsight when something critical fails?

Can we guarantee success?

“Effort does not guarantee success, it only removes the guarantee of failure.”

Eric Davis

No matter how hard we work at something success is never guaranteed. All the hard effort in the world just might not be enough. But if you don’t put in the effort you are absolutely going to fail. I think the real key is how you answer this question:

If we don’t put in our best and maximum effort will we look back later and wonder if failure happened because we didn’t try hard enough?

Test your limits…

“Consider how much more you often suffer from your anger and grief, than from those very things for which you are angry and grieved.”
 
Marcus Antonius

Why is it that so much of what bothers us in life isn’t the thing itself but is instead how it makes us feel? We look to be wronged, persecuted or diminished as opposed to seeking understanding and growth. Very few people look for ways to fail simply so they can learn and grow. Choosing to learn from failure is something that comes through wisdom and experience. Seeking opportunities that push you so far outside of your comfort zone that failure is almost guaranteed at some point is the only way you can ever understand your limits.

What on earth does this have to do with today’s quote? Glad you asked. If failure is the thing that creates anger and grief for you, then how will you ever be able to find out how far you can go? It isn’t the failure itself, it is how you respond to it that matters. Failure is a gift when you choose to learn from it. Learn and grow? Or anger and grief?  You choose…

 

Failure must be an option…

“If you set your goals ridiculously high and it’s a failure, you will fail above everyone else’s success.”

James Cameron

I would argue that if your goal doesn’t scare you just a little bit, it isn’t set high enough.  If your goals are too easy, they just aren’t going to make you stretch.  They won’t make you push, make you dig deep and find that extra effort and energy you didn’t know you had.  

Goals shouldn’t be targets set to where you know you can hit them, they should scare you because you really don’t know if you can reach them.  Only then will you find what you are really made of.  

Are you willing to aim so high that you might fail?  If failure isn’t a real and potential option, your goals are too easy…  

 

Why don’t you try?

“What good is an idea if it remains an idea? Try. Experiment. Iterate. Fail. Try again. Change the world.”

Simon Sinek

How many great ideas just whither up and die because they never see the light of day?  I know I have had some great ones (well I think they were anyway) that have lived only in my mind.  Why does this happen?  Is it fear of failure?  Prioritizing the wrong things?  Not making the experimenting with new ideas a focus area?  

There can be tons of reasons of course.  But what would happen if you dedicated an intentional amount of your time to focusing on bringing new ideas, great ideas to life?  Keep a running list, prioritize that list by impact and what really excites you.  Decide to try one new idea each year, quarter, month, whatever schedule makes sense.  But decide to try.  If you don’t decide to act then you never will.  

The solution is what matters…

“Ninety-nine percent of all failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses.”

George Washington Carver

If you are making excuses it is a failure of leadership.  Period.  If you are looking to assign fault, you are making an excuse.  You have already failed.

I’ve heard folks say, “I’m not making excuses, I just want to make sure you understand the reasons why this happened.”  I firmly believe that the only difference between  ‘excuses’ and ‘reasons’ is the action plan needed to drive change.  Reasons without action are just another name for an excuse and excuses don’t come with actions. 

The problem with excuses and “reasons” is that the effort is spent focused on the problem and all the reasons why something didn’t work.  This doesn’t add value in any way.  Now I am not saying it isn’t important to understand root cause and effect, but understanding is only important if you are then focused on doing something about it!

I recently read something really profound that puts this in perfect perspective.

“Focus only on the solution to the problem – never on the problem itself.”  

If you are solution oriented, you can’t be making excuses.  If you are ‘problem oriented’ then excuse-making and failure will be your best friends.  If you are looking for a reason something happened to take action, great.  But make sure that ACTION is what you are focused on creating, never excuses…  

Excuses = Failure…

What are you afraid of?

“Teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability.”

Patrick Lencioni

Merriam-Webster defines “invulnerable” as “impossible to harm, damage or defeat.”  We are taught at a young age that we have to be tough, that we have to win, that showing any vulnerability is a sign of weakness and frailty.  So we carry that defensive nature into our lives and relationships, both at work and at home.  Instead of accepting that we are all vulnerable we seek to be invulnerable with those around us.  

Perhaps this is changing?  The usage of the word “vulnerable” has certainly become more prevalent over the past few decades. Not bad for a word that has it’s root origination in the Latin noun “vulnus” meaning “wound.”  (Finally all my college Latin courses are paying off!!)

 

vulnerable

Usage of “vulnerable”

 

But lets contrast “invulnerability” with “trust” which is defined as “allow someone to have, use, or look after (someone or something of importance or value) with confidence.” 

How do you know when you trust someone?  What does it feel like? For me it is the feeling of safety.  That it is okay if I’m not perfect and it is safe to expose my vulnerabilities for the purpose of achieving a greater good.  When I trust my teammates I am confident that they care, first and foremost, about achieving our shared goals and purpose.

Hmm, now that I think about it maybe “invulnerability” isn’t such a bad thing.  If a team has a high degree of trust with each other I think they just might be a team that is “impossible to harm, damage or defeat…”  

 

Failure to plan…

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”

Colin Powell

This quote reminds me of the old axiom “if you fail to plan you plan to fail.” Preparation is such an important aspect of success that sometimes gets overlooked.  It’s so easy to wait until the last minute to get the work done but far too often that increases the chance of failure, or at least of sub-optimal results.  Good preparation is part of the hard work required to create success.  Being intentional in what we WANT to do allows us to execute against our plan with focused hard work AND creates the environment that allows us to learn when things don’t go as planned.  If you don’t have a plan, how will you know if you don’t achieve it?

 

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